Karen Aijo has always dreamed of becoming the Top Star in the Takarazuka theater troupe. When Karen’s childhood best friend, Hikari Kagura, transfers into the Seisho Music Academy, Karen finds herself drawn into the world of the Revue Starlight auditions, where there is more to gain and lose than just fame.
Revue Starlight was a show that kind of came out of nowhere that I didn’t expect to be so good during the summer 2018 anime season. When I first heard about it being based on a mobile game, I thought it was just going to be a typical idol anime franchise but with the twist that it’s focused on the all women theater troupe known as Takarazuka. The Takarazuka aspect did have me interested because I already had a curious interest in them due to their involvement with the live action Sailor Moon musicals, but I wasn’t expecting Revue Starlight to be as weird and surreal of a show as it was. Even now after I’ve seen it all, I’m still processing my thoughts on the show and I’m not entirely sure I understood everything or how I felt about all that happened. But it was definitely a show I really appreciated for it’s creativity and how much hard work the production staff and cast put into making it.
The show does start off as a typical slice of life show about these group of young girls who are auditioning to be part of a Takarazuka play known as Starlight. Each episode opens up with a focus on a different girl and what their situation is and explores their relationship with the other girls and the dreams. What gives the show it’s surreal feeling is how the conflicts the girls face get resolved. This involves the girls being selected by a bizarre talking giraffe that lives underneath the school that pits the girls in a magical sword duel that feels straight out of Revolutionary Girl Utena to determine who the Top Star will be. The series’s main focus is on the two lead girls, Hikari and Karen, who both have made a vow to become stars together. Karen always wants to get closer to Hikari but Hikari keeps pushing her away, as though she’s trying to keep Karen safe from a dark secret, but Karen never gives up on Hikari or their promise.
The other girls are equally engaging with their own issues and dreams. The most notable is Nana Daiba, nicknamed “Banana” by her friends due to her banana-like hairstyle. Nana treasures her time with the 99th Seisho Festival’s production of Starlight so much she will do everything she can to preserve her precious memories of it. I can’t spoil what happens but the extreme lengths she goes to do that will certainly be shocking when you finally see what happens. The problems the girls struggle with are easily relatable to anyone who’s struggled with wanting to fit in, jealousy, and even unhealthy obsessions. The show is always very raw and emotional with how it approaches these problems and that’s part of what makes the feelings so resonant with viewers, and I also appreciated the show didn’t shy away from it’s strong lesbian undertones between the girls.
Revue Starlight marks the directorial debut of Tomohiro Furukawa at the studio Kinema Citrus and is based on a cross-media franchise by Bushiroad that also includes a mobile game and a live action stage play adaptation. Kinema Citrus is made up of former animators from the world famous Studio Bones and Production I.G. Kinema Citrus is most famous for adapting Barakamon and the 2017 Crunchyroll Awards Anime of the Year winner, Made in Abyss. Tomohiro Furukawa was previously a student for legendary director Kunihiko Ikuhara of Utena fame, working as an animator for Penguindrum and most recently, Yuri Kuma Arashi. The influence Ikuhara ahs had on Furukawa is very obvious and you can see it in the surreal nature of the series and how the stage battles draw very clear influences from Utena and the giraffe feels like something straight out of Yuri Kuma Arashi. Furuakawa has definitely earned the right to be referred to as Ikuhara’s successor. The show went through a lot of production struggles with a low animation budget, to the point where they had to use Twitter to recruit animation staff.
In spite of the production quality issues, the show always looked beautiful, with so much detail and unique, breathtaking animation shots. The finale especially stood out to me with how impressive it was. I also really enjoyed the music, and not just the catchy vocal songs that played during the duels, but the BGM was always very emotionally moving as well. The music is composed by Tatsuya Kato who had previously worked on Love Live Sunshine and the Free Iwatobi Swim Club franchise, among many other titles. This series really goes to show that even if you have a lot of production quality issues and a low budget, you can still turn out a beautiful creation if you put a lot of effort and passion into your work. This is the very definition of a “passion product.” If you’re looking for an anime that’s unique and different and has a compelling story and characters, I highly recommend Revue Starlight. Revue Starlight is such an incredible visionary work that reminds me of why the medium of anime is so special and I give it a five star rating. Revue Starlight is licensed by Sentai Filmworks and is currently available for streaming on HiDive.